Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To frack, or not to frack?

     The fracking debate has been heating up with opponents and proponents jockeying for public support. The tree huggers, liberals, and democrats have all decried the action of fracking in North Carolina as dangerous and hazardous for North Carolinians and the environment. Energy companies, capitalists, and many conservatives view the process as a job creator, an economic spark, and a good use of resources. Moore County State Rep. Jamie Boles is traveling up to Pennsylvania with other legislators to view fracking up close and personal. It will be interesting to see what his opinion will be. And even Washington is getting on the debate with Rep. Brad Miller trying to suck up to the environmental community by helping out liberal director Josh Kelly, who was removed from a public hearing  for "disorderly conduct". Kelly is the director of "Gasland", a film that is critical of fracking. If it helps, the film is nominated for an Oscar so it is not conservative. Many are wondering, what is the truth about fracking and should it be done in North Carolina?
     This is the process of fracking as told by http://www.hydraulicfracturing.com/

Simplified Steps In Hydraulic Fracturing

1. Water, sand and additives​ are pumped at high pressures down the wellbore.
2. The liquid goes through perforated sections of the wellbore and into the surrounding formation, fracturing the rock and injecting sand or proppants into the cracks to hold them open.
3. Experts continually monitor and gauge pressures, fluids and proppants, studying how the sand reacts when it hits the bottom of the wellbore, slowly increasing the density of sand to water as the fracturing progresses.
4. This process may be repeated multiple times in “stages” to reach maximum areas of the wellbore. When this is done, the wellbore is temporarily plugged between each stage to maintain the highest water pressure possible and get maximum fracturing results in the rock.
5. The fracturing plugs are drilled or removed from the wellbore and the well is tested for results.
6. The water pressure is reduced and fluids are carried up the wellbore for disposal or treatment and re-use, leaving the sand in place to prop open the cracks and allow gas and oil to flow.
http://www.hydraulicfracturing.com/Process/Pages/information.aspx

     Opponents say that the process is dangerous because of the potential for groundwater contamination and the possibility of leaks and spills.  For more info on the reported negatives check out this site.
http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/fracking/
Opponents also say that the economic benefits are inflated and not worth the great risks involved.
http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/01/10/1765948/event-at-duke-posits-risks-of.html

     Listed here is an example of an accident that occurred in Pennsylvania, as reported in Popular Mechanics.
http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/coal-oil-gas/pennsylvania-fracking-accident-what-went-wrong-5598621
   
     Basically opponents are saying that the economic numbers are inflated because the gas companies will bring in most of the workers from out of state, rather than hire local workers. They contend that the only real beneficiaries are the energy companies and landowners. They also contend that the possibility of contaminated ground water from chemicals and the shale oil itself is enough to outweigh any ecnomic gain. http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/print-edition/2011/11/18/fracking-and-the-environment.html?page=2
     Proponents are saying that with a slumping economy, high unemployment, and soaring energy prices that the economic impact will bring relief to all of the above problems. An increase in energy will lower prices, the process will inject money into our economy and will create new job opportunities.
     So what do I think? I think that we should wait to see what the study by the NC legislature says. The process is innovative and seems to be sound. In the economic climate we're in we need to examine all possible ways to create jobs and new industry. The risks are real and they have to be addressed. In a perfect world the report would be favorable and the legislature would put in the safeguards for protecting our groundwater and environment and the process of fracking would move forward. Utilizing our resources, creating jobs, and protecting our environment are not mutually exclusive things. We can do all of the above. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

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